Lead Review

  • Book: A Letter From Sarah
  • Location: Brooklyn, Fulham
  • Author: Dan Proops

Review Author: tripfiction



Struggling sculptor, Adam, has never recovered from the loss of his sister, seven years ago.  Sarah met Adam for a drink before setting off, in the best of spirits, for a night on the town.  She was never seen again.  No body was recovered and Adam is left, unable to get any closure.  He lives with his exceedingly demanding and grumpy father, who has become a recluse since his daughter’s disappearance and pretty much makes Adam’s life a misery.  Adam has a girlfriend, Cassandra, but the relationship seems to be going nowhere fast. He meets Nigel, an old schoolfriend, who reveals that he has fallen on hard times and persuades Adam to take him in temporarily.  Nigel, slimy schemer that he is, sets about usurping Adam’s place in his father’s affections.  And then a letter from Sarah arrives out of the blue, revealing that she is married and living in Brooklyn, and that sets Adam off on his quest to find her.

This is Dan Proops’ debut novel and it would be good to be able to be more positive about it, but really it feels like a damp squib from the start.  It had all the ingredients for an engaging story, but the storyline stretches credibility to its limits. Events that should have been dramatic and exciting revelations are handled in such a way that they fall flat. It’s hard to empathise with the characters, most of whom really struggle to get above caricature.  Nigel and Darius, Adam’s father, are clichéd portrayals with no depth and Adam himself, as he struggles through the mental processes involved in coming to terms with loss, ricochets between pathetic self-pity and spiteful revenge rages and consequently fails to arouse sympathy. The prose is actually painful in places, particularly when describing sexual encounters and in others unnecessarily padded and the dialogue is almost totally unconvincing and stilted.

A Letter from Sarah moves between London and Brooklyn as Adam sets off on his search of his sister and Proops has managed to convey a sense of the New York winter in the scenes set in Brooklyn.  There is one section of the novel, when Adam is hunting at night in Prospect Park, when the writing comes alive and there is a sense of danger and suspense.  It is a rare treat in an otherwise prosaic read.

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